CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

HOME AFFAIRS – EARLY RELEASE SCHEMES – 5 December 2005

Dr Julian Lewis: If he [The Secretary of State for the Home Department] will make a statement on the size of the prison population.

[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): The prison population on Friday 2 December was 77,262. It is the duty of the Government to provide places for all whom the courts send to prison. Our aim is to work with offenders while they are in prison so as to remove the danger they offer to the public and to reduce their propensity to reoffend.]

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] Does the Minister accept that the early release schemes that have been applied in the past have done nothing to reduce the prison population, because otherwise why are our prisons bursting at the seams? Will she undertake not to try to resolve that problem by further reducing the prison sentences served, which so discredits the sentences nominally imposed that our newspapers are full of the complaints of the families of PCs and head teachers who have been murdered that the murderers are being let out far too early?

[Fiona Mactaggart: Since the inception of the scheme to which I think the hon. Gentleman largely refers, more than 119,000 prisoners have been released on home detention curfews. Something like five or six additional prisons would have been required had it not been possible to release those people in such a way. While I am second to none in offering my condolences to people who have suffered tragedies due to released prisoners who have breached the conditions of their curfew, it is worth pointing out that the reoffending rate among those on home detention curfews in the period following their curfew – and, indeed, while they are on curfew – is substantially less than that of other offenders. Although the scheme is obviously not risk free, that suggests that the risk is being managed relatively well.]